Campus / Featured / News / April 19, 2018

Tweets called into question

On Wednesday afternoon a crude graphic image was slid under a Jewish professor’s office door in response to their disagreement with the tweets posted by Visiting Assistant Professor of Africana Studies Kwame Zulu Shabazz, which have been called anti-Semitic by some Jewish members of the Knox community.

“It’s a disgusting and contemptible image and it’s a disgusting and contemptible act,” Interim Dean of the College Michael Schneider said.

Vice President for Student Development Anne Ehrlich declined to comment on the image because she had not yet had time to process the incident when TKS reached out to her shortly after both she and TKS learned of the event.

The professor, who asked to remain anonymous, and Shabazz both declined to comment on the most recent incident.

Director of Spiritual Life Monica Corsaro was contacted by a Jewish student who feared for their safety on campus after learning of the image.

“They took time, and they thought about it … This is not Knox. This is not the Knox I’ve experienced. Our students have only acted in good faith. My perspective is when you attack one of us you attack all of us,” Corsaro said.

President Teresa Amott sent out an email to campus on Wednesday night addressing the issue and calling the event an “affront to the values we as an institution hold dear.”

TKS will continue to cover the specifics of the incident and responses as the story develops.

 

The lead up

The controversy started when junior and Co-President of Hillel Chava Solberg received an email from a Jewish student pointing out certain tweets made by Shabazz which they felt were anti-Semitic. Not knowing what to do, Solberg contacted the Hillel advisors and then Corsaro on Sunday, April 8.

Solberg reached out to Shabazz under their advice and set up a meeting between him, her, sophomore Carolyn Ginder and one of the Hillel advisors on Tuesday, April 10.

After the meeting, Shabazz said that he received an email from a faculty member, who had learned about the meeting from an email sent out to the Hillel community by one of the members present. In response, on Thursday, April 12, he emailed the distribution lists of several cultural clubs on campus and the entire faculty list responding to the allegations of anti-Semitism.

As part of his email, Shabazz forwarded some of the private communications with Solberg in setting up the meeting, which he said was a mistake and which he regrets.

“Where I made the mistake, and I apologized to the Hillel person, my intent was to email my perspective and the tweets, not realizing that the tweets were attached to a private email. So that was a mistake and I feel horrible about that and I apologize,” he said.

Professor of Political Science Sue Hulett then forwarded the subsequent email chain to Hillel club, who was not included on the forwarded emails between Shabazz and Solberg. Hulett said that the tweets and the emails she saw explaining the tweets appeared to have an anti-Jewish message. She felt compelled to reach out and offer support to Hillel.

“I found that appalling. In fact, the most appalling thing I’ve seen on a Knox email,” Hulett said. “This was just heartbreaking. It seemed to me that those emails violated every principle of social justice, every principle of tolerance that we’re supposed to have here at Knox. It was horrible, it violated what Knox stands for, at least it seems to me, and again to attack a group because of religious identity – this is wrong.”

Professor of English Natania Rosenfeld, who is one of the few Jewish faculty members, was one of the only public respondents to Shabazz’s email chain and tweets. In her emailed response, she disagreed with the content and message of the tweets.

“I think the things that Brother Shabazz tweeted lacked academic and intellectual integrity. I don’t think an academic should be trumpeting hate speech,” Rosenfeld said in an interview with TKS. “There’s no question in my mind that those are anti-Semitic tweets, particularly the ones about Jews and money, and about the Jewish god supposedly commanding us to commit genocide.”

Visiting Instructor of Art Kahlil Irving was another professor who responded to the email chain, though he voiced his support for Shabazz. He specifically agreed that Jewish people have been assimilated into white culture and have privilege in that way, despite having been marginalized at one point.

Irving also agreed with Shabazz that Jews and Israelis are participating in the genocide of Palestinians.

“Jews are – Israelis are annihilating entire peoples. That’s true. The isolation and killing in Gaza in the West Bank, that is an annihilation of Arab Christians and Arab Muslims. And if you can’t understand that, you have an implicit bias,” Irving said. “How Jews went from Holocaust victims to brutal occupiers in just a few generations, if that ain’t f****n’ the most true statement about Israel, then I don’t know what is. ”

Student Senate discussed the tweets later on Thursday night, but prevented the discussion from addressing the emails.

According to Corsaro and Solberg, Hillel had been planning an open discussion on the topic for Sunday, April 15. Following the emails, Solberg said the Hillel exec felt that they needed a chance to really listen to the Jewish community in a closed space.

The Jewish community met on Sunday in a closed meeting to discuss the developments.

 

The issues

Solberg identified what she saw as three issues that really pertained to the discussion: the tweets, the emails and her exposure through the forwarding of her personal communications.

For the tweets, context has become the focus of the discussion. Shabazz says that the tweets are meant only as condensed thoughts and that the real learning that could happen would come through full context and discussion.

“[Tweets] are easy to misread, misinterpret the mode of things, the tone, all of that falls out of the tweet oftentimes. So the only way you’ll know is to ask the tweeter, ‘what do you mean?’” he said.

For Solberg, the problem is that no matter what the context, the specific wording of the tweets are problematic.

“I think the tweets are probably being taken out of context. I don’t think that makes them any better, you’re responsible for what you say. Someone brought this up the other night that our generation is constantly being told that what you post online impacts you, I think it’s the same thing,” she said.

The specific wording of the tweet comparing Jews to Nazis particularly worried her.

“That’s a tough comparison there, that’s a really, really tough comparison. I just think there’s better words for oppressors if that’s what you want to say that Jews are oppressors, if that’s your opinion, okay. But bringing in Nazis, that’s gonna be tough,” she said.

Rosenfeld was also upset about the particular wording of some of the tweets made by Shabazz. She felt as though some of the tweets played on ‘age-old’ stereotypes of Jewish people.

“The ones about Jews in Israel are so ugly and so absolute that I don’t believe that this is criticism that is made in good faith. I think it’s criticism that is itself biased,” Rosenfeld said. “When he says the Jews hold the purse strings, he is parroting an ancient accusation against the Jews that we somehow run the finances of the world. It has nothing to do with Israel and the Palestinians.”

Rosenfeld also criticized Shabazz’s comparison of Jews and Nazis.

“It’s deliberately cruel,” she said. “It’s ‘you were once the victims of Nazis, now you are Nazis yourselves.’ Which, first of all, is just plain untrue.”

According to Shabazz, he uses Jews when on occasion he means a more specific subset such as Israelis or Zionists. He sees this as part of a broader discussion of the continued oppression of black people by white people, which he sees as now including Jewish people.

“Jews have aspired to whiteness, integrating into the white category. And so, they have upward mobility. Black people don’t have that option,” he said.

To him, statements such as those made in the tweets are acceptable because of his own experience of oppression.

“I’m writing as a black person who is a victim of white supremacy, of which Jews are a part of that group,” Shabazz said.

He also acknowledged that students had felt hurt by the tweets, but pointed out the necessity of discomfort for learning.

“There are currently a subset of Jewish students on this campus who are very hurt and I respect that. And, I tell my white students this in classes, whenever a white student feels uncomfortable about something, you can get a fleeting sense, a very fleeting, superficial sense of what it’s like to be black in America,” Shabazz said.

For some of the Jewish community members on campus, the biggest issue is not the tweets but the methods of discussion that have come up.

“[It was] just overall unprofessional, regardless of if you believe his statements are anti-Semitic, he was just completely unprofessional,” said junior Sam Cohen, who is a member of Hillel Club.

Solberg felt the emails were inappropriate to use for the discussion, especially when her private emails were included. Shabazz had apologized to her for that, but she said that she was uncertain about the apology.

Cohen and Ginder cited Shabazz’s inclusion of “see below” as proof that the forwarding was not a mistake. However, Shabazz said that he had meant to only include the tweets that Solberg had asked him for clarification on, as quoted above.

For Associate Professor of Anthropology and Sociology Gabe Raley, the discussion has distracted from issues that Shabazz has received respect for bringing to the attention of campus.

A professor received a piece of hate mail that was slid under her door Wednesday afternoon depicting a crude graphic image. (Photo courtesy of the professor)

“I agree with Brother Shabazz that how black and brown people are treated in this country is really our most pressing social issue, it is what we should be acting on, thinking about, engaging in every day. And that’s why it’s really disappointing to have to stop that work at this point and have this discussion about whether anti-Semitism is wrong,” Raley said.

Shabazz disagrees. He sees the discussion as being about Black-Jewish relations and therefore as intimately tied to the wider discussion of continued oppression of Black people in America and the world.

“My problem, though, is that from what I’ve been hearing, is that the experiences, the history, the politics of Jewish people matter more than the history, experiences, politics of black people, of African-Americans specifically, and I think that’s deeply problematic,” Shabazz said.

Shabazz’s contributions to campus discussion was one thing that made some of those involved especially disappointed.

“I do respect him, I think he has done a lot of really phenomenal things for campus. And I hate that in my mind, this is sort of overshadowing that right now,” Solberg said.

 

Going forward

After discussing the tweets for 25 minutes, some members of Student Senate started to ask what Senate could do to address the issue.

Ehrlich did mention that an investigation into potential biases and discrimination has been launched in response to the tweets. The Bias Reporting Process, according to her, is similar to the Title IX process and is considered the parallel policy for discrimination, racism and bias for some reason other than gender, such as race, ethnicity and religion.

This process first begins when a report is initially made and is followed up on by the bias response team, which is made up of Dean of Students Deb Southern, Associate Dean of the College Tim Foster, Director of Human Resources Crystal Bohm, Director of Campus Safety Mark Welker and Title IX Coordinator Kim Schrader.

Once the investigation begins, the team follows up on the report by interviewing the person who filed the report, anyone who was witness to the bias behavior, anyone potentially impacted and the person who has done the alleged bias behavior.

However, Ehrlich mentioned this process can be frustrating for people who want to know the outcome and consequences of public biased behavior because the college cannot legally provide information regarding those consequences or punishments. She does hope that, if anything comes from this incident, it’s awareness of this reporting process.

Solberg has experienced some backlash from students on campus after her emails were shared, as well as emails of support. Corsaro sees herself as a support for students of all backgrounds when they face difficulty.

“First and foremost is always the welfare of our students, no matter where they come from, what their color or their religion because that’s my job,” Corsaro said.

She hopes that the community can use the discussion that has come out of the events to look at hate speech.

Solberg said that Hillel was planning some sort of response, focusing on a discussion about hate speech. The tentative title is “Hillel Against Hate.” Corsaro will follow the lead of the students.

Shabazz said he was glad that the discussion was taking place. It provides a chance to learn through facing uncomfortable subjects as well as a chance for students of privilege to confront the effects of that privilege. He would like to see a panel on Black-Jewish relations come out of this.

“This is a great opportunity. Israel should be on the table. Black-Jewish relations should be on the table. Zionism should be on the table. Can Black people be racist? Or can Black people be anti-Semitic? All that should be on the table,” he said.

Still, the discussion so far has allowed students to take a lead in combating hate speech on campus. Corsaro and Raley both commented on being impressed by the student responses.

“The beautiful thing is, I have, in this process, gotten to see how smart and how compassionate and how understanding our students are at Knox and there’s been a very warm outreaching from our other club leaders and I have been very impressed,” Corsaro said.

 

 

Note: An earlier edition of this article stated that Corsaro was present at the April 10 meeting. One of the Hillel advisors was, not Corsaro.

Sierra Henry, Co-News Editor on Email
Sierra Henry, Co-News Editor
Sierra Henry is a senior Political Science major who is minoring in journalism. During her time at Knox she has had her work published in the Robinson Daily News, the Galesburg-Register Mail and Cellar Door. In the summer of 2017 she studied abroad in Bologna, Italy where she worked as a student foreign correspondent.
Connor Wood, Co-News Editor
Connor Wood is a sophomore majoring in English Literature. He started at The Knox Student in the fall of his freshman year as a volunteer writer for News.

Tags:  africana studies anti-Semitic Bias Reporting discrimination emails ethnicity first amendment freedom of speech hate mail hate speech Hillel Club Judaism Knox College Student Senate race social media spiritual life Student Senate

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37 Comments

Apr 19, 2018

Fantastic and impressively timely reporting on a very complex, heated and important issue impacting Knox and, of course, the world. Great journalism here.


    Apr 20, 2018

    Agreed. Cheers to TKS for their diligence.


Apr 19, 2018

I have stated repeatedly now that I was referring to Zionist Jews acting like Nazis. Not Jews generally. Here is the entire thread:

@kzshabazz
4 Feb 2017
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Replying to @PoliticsPeach
Bad analogy given that Zionist Jews act like Nazis @sportsmediaLM

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ghetto intellectual™

@kzshabazz
4 Feb 2017
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Again Jews are acting like Nazis and they are backed by white imperial powers so bad analogy @sportsmediaLM

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ghetto intellectual™

@kzshabazz
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Replying to @PoliticsPeach @sportsmediaLM
I said the Jews act like Nazis.


    Apr 19, 2018

    As a Professor, you should have known better or you should have been more clear, I don’t care if you were referring only to Zionist Jews, that is not what you wrote. Instead, what you posted is clearly anti-Semitic and it’s creating fear and hate on campus. The tone in which you wrote “Jews” and anti-Semitic comments about “Jews pulling strings for Profit” sent chills down my spine. You should apologize and be ashamed at your behavior. Knox she should be ashamed to have you on its staff.


    Apr 19, 2018

    Shabazz, you continue to double down on statements that at best, are insensitive and ill-thought-out, and at worst, are straight racist and xenophobic. College students can be forgiven for wanting to package this confusing, unjust, and frustrating world in which we live into neat little platitudes and nuggets of supposed wisdom about who’s out to get who. But professors? It’s your duty to pull students out of this narrow mindset.

    Your use of anti-semitic stereotypes, apparently meant to teach your students that no one has suffered more than African Americans, constitutes an unacceptable breach of what it means to be a teacher. With your actions, you have narrowed the minds of Knox students instead of spurring them to engage in the genuine, nuanced pursuit of Truth and social justice. As a middle school teacher who was accredited at Knox, I shudder to think that my current students — whom I have taught to think independently, compassionately, and with an eye for justice — might one day end up in a college course with a negligent, reckless, manipulative professor such as yourself.


      Apr 19, 2018

      “Disgusted Teacher” (too cowardly to reveal your name). There is nothing more “narrow” than imposing a nation on top of people already living there. It is, in fact, genocidal.


    Apr 23, 2018

    I’ve never met you sir, as I graduated before you started teaching, but there are several important things here to note and I thought it best to address you directly if possible.

    First of all, I wanted to highlight this exchange:

    @chaunceydevega
    21 Aug 2015
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    Maybe because I know so much about NWA and hip hop of that period, but Straight Outta Compton told the stories that didn’t need to be told
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    ghetto intellectual™

    @kzshabazz
    Follow Follow @kzshabazz
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    Replying to @chaunceydevega
    @chaunceydevega …and Jews pulling the strings for profit.
    8:26 PM – 21 Aug 2015

    Now, you claim that your tweets are being taken out of context, but I have no idea what context you could be putting this in that makes it any better. So far as I can tell, there is no “context” for this comment other than very old and very hateful stereotypes about Jews and their relation to finances and control. Your claims elsewhere that you were carelessly using the words “Jews”, “Zionists”, and “Israelis” interchangeably hold absolutely no water in this case, because the idea that you *meant* Israelis (specifically in their role as the oppressors of the Palestinian people) were somehow responsible for the content of the film “Straight Outta Compton” is absurd. And as a professor whose career seems to largely be focused on fighting issues of prejudice and oppression, you should damn well know better than to fall for the same traps yourself.

    Which brings us to the second point: Your response to being called out for your remarks. Rather than admitting that you might have prejudices of your own, that you might have issues that require self-reflection, or even that you might just have your own topics you’re ignorant of, you doubled down and fell back on the tried and true “I’m sorry you were offended” defense, the exact defense racists, misogynists, homophobes, and more are so quick to rely on time and time again in just about every area of prejudice imaginable. It’s a hollow apology that refuses any responsibility for your own actions or ideas, and again, a professor of your background should know better than to even consider it or risk losing all credibility.

    To be honest, under many circumstances I wouldn’t even necessarily disagree with parts of your characterization of the Israeli occupation to Palestine. As and American Jew myself I’ve always found the Israeli treatment of the Palestinian people to be abhorrent, in no small part *because* of our own treatment as an oppressed people going back thousands of years. And while I wouldn’t agree with the characterization of the occupation as a “genocide”, I would certainly agree that the Israeli people have a lot to answer for with regards to their aggression.

    But that’s not what you said. You didn’t criticize Israel, or even Zionism, you criticized “Jews”, and did so in ways that fully displayed your own ignorance and prejudices. Again, I’m failing to understand what possible context “…and Jews pulling the strings for profit” could be placed in that *wouldn’t* be deeply anti-Semitic. These are not deeply thought out ideas and scholarly concepts regarding the treatment of the Palestinian people, these are knee-jerk attacks on an entire ethno-religious group using the exact same language oppressors have used against them for centuries. And even *if* your claims that you were simply using the words “Jews”, “Zionists”, and “Israelis” interchangeably held true, you of all people should know better than to be so reductive.

    Which gets us into this gem of a quote: “My problem, though, is that from what I’ve been hearing, is that the experiences, the history, the politics of Jewish people matter more than the history, experiences, politics of black people, of African-Americans specifically, and I think that’s deeply problematic.”

    So, in essence, your defense to being called out for your own clearly prejudiced remarks was to instead try to re-frame the conversation into one of your own victimhood. Now, you’re going to get absolutely no argument from me that there are incredibly pressing challenges around the treatment of black and brown people in the United States, and under normal circumstances I would even agree that those issues are far more dangerous and immediate than those faced by the American Jewish community. But I’m not going to address those issues here because they are *completely irrelevant* to the discussion at hand, that discussion being *your* prejudiced remarks. Those challenges, and the question of whether *you personally* made these particular anti-Semitic remarks have nothing to do with each other, and your attempt to re-frame the issue of your own anti-Semitism as *really* being about the experience of black people in America comes across as self-serving and insulting. Quite simply, this conversation is not about you as a black man, this conversation is about *you personally* as an anti-Semite.

    How would you feel had a female professor made clearly prejudiced comments about African-Americans, and then when criticized for it tried to re-frame it as an issue of the patriarchy attacking her as a woman? You would rightly have been outraged and incredulous at such a blatant attempt at deflection, but it is precisely what you yourself have done here. If you want to have a conversation about Black-Jewish relations, then I’ll absolutely agree with you that that is a discussion that should be had. But in using it as a smoke-screen for your own hateful language you lose all credibility you might otherwise have. It’s a coward’s defense.

    And the fact that you continually defend your own prejudices while trying to re-contextualize them within the realm of your own oppression shows an utter lack of self-awareness on your part. Ironically, in exactly the same way you claim “Jews are acting like Nazis”, you yourself are acting with the exact same mind-set as those who attack *you* based on your own race and background, people you explicitly claim opposition to. And when you claim that discomfort is important for learning, you ignore the fact that *you yourself* are the exact person who has failed to learn anything from this situation. You are the person who most needs to examine their own beliefs, and the person least willing to do so, and so you instead try to deflect from it at all costs rather than spend even a moment on self-examination.

    I don’t know what it’s like to be black in America, you’re certainly right about that, and realistically speaking I never really will. But I do keep my ears and heart open to what I’ve been told by black men and women who *do* know, so that even if I can never get the full picture I can at least get an idea of it, and know how to help, to be an ally in whatever way I can. And I know my own privileges as a straight, white, cis-gendered male, and I actively work to always improve myself and my awareness of the struggles of others. It may never be enough, but it’s what I can do.

    I’ve seen no such self-awareness from you. When confronted with your own prejudices you doubled-down, you deflected, and you tried to re-frame the issue to be about yourself rather than the people you victimized, the exact behavior of any oppressor when their prejudices are pointed out to them. You refused to examine your own privileges, just as I’m sure you rightly criticize your students and colleagues for. And while I wouldn’t dare pretend I know what it feels like to be black in America, I’d ask that you refrain from fooling yourself that you know what it means to be *Jewish* in America. Do I get followed around stores and libraries, do I get accosted on the street, do I fear for my life more deeply when in the presence of police officers? No. But I have been physically attacked, spit on, insulted, called a Kike, and told that I “pull the strings for profit”, all because of my own ethno-religious background. I have family that died in the Holocaust, and many more than died in the Pogroms in Russia. And while under most circumstances I would never try to compare my struggles to your own, the fact that you’ve seen fit to erase the pain and damage inflicted on the Jewish people, inflicted by people using the *exact* words you have, in service of your own prejudices and refusal to accept the consequences for them is frankly disgusting. You of all people should know better than this, and the fact that not only a professor but a professor of your particular focus *doesn’t* makes you unworthy of your position.


Apr 19, 2018

Jews have been persecuted for thousands of years by Greeks, Romans, Christians, Nazi’s, Arabs, Muslims, you name ’em. Jews have been slaughtered by the millions (Hitler alone killed as many Jews as are now living in Israel, about 50% of the entire Jewish world population). Israel is the only place on earth were a Jew can truly live free and feel they belong. Now, somehow brother Shabazz feels he needs to chime in on this subject, and join the hate-the-Jews party. What this has to do with the oppression of blacks in America or the institutional racism that still persists today is anybody’s guess. Of all the demographic groups in the US the Jews have been the most supportive of the Democratic Party and the social programs they champion, regardless of the less-than-enthusiastic attitude that the modern Democratic Party has towards the state of Israel. Jews care about social justice, equality and the welfare of all minorities and prove it at the ballot box every single election. To call out all “the Jews” for how the current Israeli government’s is to attempting to deal with the Palestinian refugee problem is simple-minded, self defeating and racist. To condemn all Jews because they desire to have a homeland where they can be safe (Zionism), is racist. The Palestinian issue is complex and can’t be easily solved without significant pain on either side. The BDS movement is a primarily Muslim initiative, obviously created to gain a political advantage in resolving the Palestinian issue. Watch this clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5jqXEzplxeo Why black liberal activists think they need to jump on the BDS bandwagon is again the question. Why the hate? And why is a college professor spouting this kind of simplistic venom? As a professor you have the responsibility to educate, not indoctrinate.


Apr 19, 2018

Pamela, have a poor understanding of how Twitter works and what a thread is.


    Apr 20, 2018

    Cool. Cool. Insulting people is a great way to show that you have learned anything. The thread continues to show anti Semitic rhetoric.


    Apr 20, 2018

    Cool. Cool. Insulting people is a great way to show that you have learned anything. The thread continues to show anti Semitic rhetoric.


    Apr 20, 2018

    I can only hope that this response is someone pretending to be Shabazz, and not Shabazz himself, given how vapid this response is, rather than engaging in open and thoughtful dialogue. This kind of reactive, attacking rhetoric is not a good look for him, or for the college. As an alum, I hope that Knox’s leadership, including President Amott, will speak up to counter the power imbalance of a professor weaponizing a student’s emails, as well.


    Apr 20, 2018

    @kwame, you have a poor understanding of the world and what it means to be a wholesome and good person. You have a very narrow mind who wants to attack and blame everyone else. Take responsibility for your actions, say you are sorry, leave with dignity. However, I know that you do not have the courage to do the right thing. So, I hope the university kicks your a** to the curb and you can go back to whatever hole you came from. You are no “professor”, you are a fraud.


Apr 19, 2018

Bob, Jewish freedom can’t be worked out by genociding Palestinians. This should be obvious for any decent human being.


    Apr 22, 2018

    Please check population numbers in Gaza and the West Bank before you level genocide accusations. The populations of both areas have gone up not down


Apr 19, 2018

It is important to note that while jewish students on campus are a minority, Palestinian students are an even smaller minority. It does not seem to be our place to voice our support for/against Israel without reaching out to students affected by the illegal actions of the jewish state. Brother Shabazz has made charged statements about the Middle East, so I am confused why I have only heard from American voices, regardless of religion. Being jewish in America is vastly different from being jewish in Israel or the Middle East generally.


    Apr 20, 2018

    Yes, being Jewish in America IS very different, which is exactly why comments conflating all Jews with Israel and treating Diaspora Jews (who still face marginalization and a high rate of hate crimes) as if they were Israeli Jews (who are the privileged group in their country, although not a monolith — subgroups such as Mizrahim and the Beta Israel face systematic mistreatment) is not the start of a dialogue, it is antisemitism.

    I grew up in a staunchly Zionist culture, and it was at Knox that my views shifted — in large measure after seeing the sole Palestinian student on campus be denied the right to host a booth at the International Fair because Palestine “isn’t a country,” while Hillel was allowed to host an Israel booth despite all of the members being born-and-raised Americans. Hillel reached out to the Palestinian student after learning she had been rejected and gave her half of our booth space, but the inequity of the situation — she deserved a whole booth, and she was the only one there with an immediate tie to the land — really brought the broader inequity of the occupation home to me, and I began researching further. Yet I cannot take part in most pro-Palestinian activism now, even though I want to, because those spaces are rife with antisemitism and I am not safe there. Not merely uncomfortable, unsafe. And that is a problem.

    Conversations about Israel and the occupation already happen at Knox, and they should continue to. But if you are using the terms Jews, Zionists, and Israelis as if they were interchangeable, as Shabazz does, your understanding of the issues is too basic to put yourself forward as a leader of that conversation. Shabazz has hurt and continues to hurt American Jews, not Israelis. He needs to stop being infantile, take a seat, and listen, just as we non-black Jews need to sit and listen when we hurt the black community — or yes, the Palestinians. Listening to marginalized groups one is not a part of when they point out harmful behavior is imperative in all activism. Shabazz needs to learn that.


    Apr 22, 2018

    “Palestinian students are an even smaller minority”

    Except Palestinian students aren’t the ones being targeted with hate-speech from a professor, Jewish students are. You’re trying to derail his conversation so you can grandstand about Israel.


Apr 19, 2018

Kwame: First of all I wonder why you, as a professor of “Africana Studies”, feel the need to talk about Israel, Zionism or Jews-in-general in a public forum. Your opinion doesn’t seem very well researched and I bet you have never even visited Israel or the West Bank (just a guess). You spout ugly bigoted tropes and just yell “genocide” to justify your hateful language. Israel is a free democratic society with a very ethical army and has never committed any act of Genocide by any official definition of the word. Go look it up if you are not sure (you know… facts). Hamas on the other hand is an extremist, ideological hate group with corrupt leaders using women and children as human shields and formally committed to kill all the Jews and “obliterate Israel”. (Hamas Charter). If your goal is to wipe out an entire race/religion and “wipe them from the land” would that not qualify as “genocide”? Why are you aligning yourself with a terrorist organization that refuses to negotiate for peace (again, look it up) and keeps committing acts of terror against innocent Israelis? My guess is you probably feel some kind of kinship with the Palestinian people because they struggle against an “oppressor” and you mistakenly think that this is similar to the struggle of African Americans in America. There is however a big difference. The Palestinians are displaced refugees (because they lost a war they started) and are now trying to work out a solution where they have self determination and get to form an independent Palestinian state. In essence this is a territorial conflict. An argument over land. They have been offered land swaps in peace settlements on many occasions and have decided that they rather would like to “struggle on” instead of accepting an imperfect deal. That’s their choice to make and they are in control of that process. This has nothing to do with institutional racism or “oppression by the white man”. Israel has Arab Muslim citizens. Quite a few actually. They have freedom of religion and are choosing to live in Israel by choice instead of moving to the West Bank. They don’t feel “oppressed”. On the other hand there are no synagogues in any Islamic countries. Why is that you think? This extreme intolerance and institutionalized antisemitism is enshrined in the Quran and central to Islamic life in the countries that surround Israel. It’s not a friendly neighborhood. When Jews defend themselves against this overwhelming level of aggression and hate from all sides, somehow the Jews get labelled “oppressors” and the aggressors get labelled “noble victims”. Funny how that works out.

But, getting back to the point: your statements about Jews-in-general are bigoted, uninformed and racist. Any decent human being can see this. Any attempt you have made so far to “explain” them just dug the hole deeper and deeper. It’s actually quite sad you don’t seem to understand that or maybe you do and that would be even worse. I think that you truly don’t grasp the effect of your language and why Jews (of any political leaning) would be offended. This kind of insensitivity is quite surprising for someone carrying the torch of social justice working at a place like Knox College. You are losing some credibility here, brotha.


Apr 20, 2018

Brother Shabazz,

You are a brave man for speaking to white power. I am forever inspire by your courage.

Asante sana.


Apr 20, 2018

I expect a higher standard of professionalism in the academic world.
Students paying $45,000 a year deserve that professionalism.
It’s difficult to take an institution seriously when their professors are getting in twitter feuds, regardless of the content.

I’m not sure about academia, but most professions have ethical standards which repudiate making inflammatory, racist public remarks.


Apr 20, 2018

So there’s a coherent through line that connects the insane right wing ideolyogy of our government with that of Israel and it’s not ‘jews control the purse strings’ – it involves anti-blackness for sure but tying that to a group that is routinely villified and othered is super racist and frankly dumb as hell, professor. Note the pain you caused and delve a little deeper next time.

For the above commentor, ya lost any credibility when you said Israel has an ethical army.


    Apr 20, 2018

    Alum:
    The IDF is comparatively speaking an ethical army. In absolute terms, they are of-course an organization tasked with defending the state of Israel and as such are sometimes brutal, ruthless and very violent out of necessity. I don’t think that the “proportional” response to the rocket and mortar attacks from Palestine are all that proportional. Everyone has seen the devastating impact of the aerial assaults by the I
    Israeli air-force and it’s hard to imagine how that is truly a “proportional” response. It just doesn’t add up. On the other hand I have never heard any good alternative ideas on how to stop the constant barrage of rockets. If you have been to Jerusalem, you will understand how close together the Palestinians and the Israelis live. When your next-door neighbor starts lobbing bombs over the fence in your backyard, what would you do? Would you try to start a dialogue? Or maybe call in the SWAT team? Before the cops raid the house, would you call your neighbor on his cellphone and warn him to exit the building? There are a lot of things the IDF does to reduce the risk of injury to innocent civilians. Those things don’t always work. At least they try. Same cannot always be said for US police officers.

    Regarding our right wing government: yes they support Israel, probably for geopolitical reasons or because of the evangelicals. Not especially because they are in love with Jews. The “very fine people” marching in Charlottesville are probably higher on the preference list than the average Jew as far as the Trump fan base is concerned. However, to make a direct link between Israel, Zionism and “anti-blackness” is a reach. Where is that notion coming from? Louis Farrakhan? Cornel West? Please use your own brain to look at the facts on the ground and don’t get co-opted into a blame-the-jews-for-everything ideology of hate. Black thought-leaders have made a lot of blatant Anti-Semitic statements in the past and so perhaps it has now become acceptable in the black activist community to hold anti-Semitic views. If you personally cannot rise above that, you are no better than the average KKK member. College educated folks should use their significant powers of reasoning. Do some historical research using unbiased sources and don’t just follow the demagogue of the day. When I hear a Trump supporter make racist remarks about black people I get sickened and depressed by the stupidity and the narrow-mindedness. I get the same feeling reading brother Kwame’s tweets. The exact same gut wrenching feeling. You can call yourself a “ghetto intellectual” and pretend your are fighting the “good fight” but if you hold racist views about your fellow human beings, your are a morally repugnant individual and you don’t deserve to be a teacher trusted with shaping your people’s minds and world views.


Apr 20, 2018

Brother Shabazz,

You are a brave man for speaking to white power. I am forever inspired by your courage.

Asante sana.


    Apr 22, 2018

    1/3rd of the world’s Jewish population was destroyed within living memory by “white power”. You (and Shabazz) are projecting the aggression of the perpetrators onto the victims and labeling it “empowerment.”

    How about you actually educate yourself by engaging with black and brown Jews (of which there are many) instead of basing your own empowerment by attacking and ethnoreligious minority?


Apr 20, 2018

One of the things I am most grateful for from my Knox education is that my professors–regardless of if they were professors in English, History, Physics, or Theater–encouraged nuanced critical thinking and precision of language. Indeed, it inspired me to begin my own career in higher education, and I challenge my students this way every day. To have a professor use such clearly reductive language in the public square (albeit virtual) and double-down when challenged is disheartening. To have the same professor also weaponize a student’s emails to larger audience without her knowledge or consent is terrible, especially in the context of the Black-Jewish relations dialogue Dr. Shabazz claims to want to open (despite evidence to the contrary in his responses both cited in the article and in the comments section). While I appreciate the student leadership in engaging this dialogue, I hope that the college’s leadership steps up its support of students in the face of professors misusing their position of power in students’ learning, both inside and outside of the classroom.


Apr 20, 2018

I fully agree with Meredith that one of the greatest parts of my Knox education is that it was an environment that allowed for critical nuanced thinking, that challenged my views but also provided an appropriate space where I felt safe learning more about my own views. To have a anyone on staff or faculty spewing such hate I can’t understand how the fundamental goals of education could possibly be achieved, I am so disappointed by the lack of response by the school’s leadership. I appreciate the student’s who have played roles brining this conversation forward, but I will have to really consider if this is the best use of my money to support a school that does not appear to support its students or my values.


Apr 20, 2018

At the bottom of this post is a url to a report titled “American and Israeli Jews: Twin Portraits From Pew Research Center Surveys”

Some key figures:
-While less than half of Israeli Jews feel a two-state solution can peacefully occur, nearly 2/3 of US Jews feel this is possible.
-Less than half of Israeli Jews think the settlements improve security, only 17% of US Jews think they improve security
-A little over half of Israeli Jews believe the US is not supportive enough of Israel, while less than a third of US Jews think their nation should offer Israel more support.
(data based on Pew Research polls conducted 2013-2015)

I post this because there’s a clear lack of appreciation for nuance in discussion of the topic. I don’t know this professor, but either their ideas on the subject at hand are based in poorly thought out Farrakhan-esque anti-semitism, or they’re so unconcerned about the content of their language that they simply cannot be bothered by the consequences of their own artlessness. Regardless of your beliefs on this particular subject, this should be a disappointment.

From time to time, we all fail to articulate our ideas as lucidly as we hope. It’s a natural part of exchanging ideas. However, if we react with inflexibility when confronted with our own genuine ignorance, our fitness as an educator is questionable.

As a sharp and vocal opponent of Israel’s history of human rights violations, overt oppression, and unjustified asymmetric warfare, I resent a fellow critic so ineloquently representing this shared belief. As a Knox grad, I’m disappointed. As someone who has twice visited Israel, I’m shocked that a Knox professor (even visiting) would so awkwardly stick their neck out so far in a manner that betrays such unambiguous ignorance. As a Jew, I’m only surprised by who’s signing his paychecks.

Everybody has some good ideas and some garbage ideas. What no educator at this level should have is a clear lack of maturity in navigating the arena of ideas. In the end, this educator’s response to generally reasonable criticism falls short of fair and reasonable expectations. That’s what this really comes down to.

The only winners in this rhetorical embarrassment are the jingoistic neo-cons who love to make hay out of any excuse to equate lack of support for the actions of the Israeli state with anti-semitism. And Brother Shabazz, you have served them up a loft-ful.

URL for aforementioned figures:
http://www.pewforum.org/essay/american-and-israeli-jews-twin-portraits-from-pew-research-center-surveys/


Apr 21, 2018

Disgusting behavior regardless of identity or political leanings. Professors are meant to be the trusted adults and sources of guidance at Knox, not petty antisemitic pot-stirrers. If you’re making students feel unsafe (not uncomfortable– unsafe), you are failing in your job as an educator and should consider another line of work, preferably one that involves less tweeting.


Apr 21, 2018

Although I can appreciate constraints of space, I find it a bit unusual that Dr. Shabazz’s tweets were provided without context. Would it be possible for TKS to post the the tweets leading up to Dr. Shabazz’s remarks?

Additionally, I don’t often find myself reading through comment threads, but this issue is one that find particularly distressing. I will openly admit to my biases: I am a white woman with only a basic understanding of the Israel-Palestine conflict. I acknowledge my place of privilege and the ignorance that comes with this. However, even with my limited knowledge, I would like to raise my concerns. I welcome a dialogue and am receptive to replies that may better-inform my understanding of the situation.

What I find difficult to understand, as other commentors have mentioned, is why Dr. Shabazz has conflated the global Jewish community with those engaging directly in the Israel-Palestine conflict. This sort of generalization is what leads to racial profiling and oppression, a reality that I have not personally experienced but one that I know Dr. Shabazz actively speaks to in his work and, presumably, in his teaching. Why Dr. Shabazz would extend the same prejudices that he faces as a person of color to the members of another marginalized community is beyond me.

In particular, I am distressed by this passage:

“For Associate Professor of Anthropology and Sociology Gabe Raley, the discussion has distracted from issues that Shabazz has received respect for bringing to the attention of campus.

“I agree with Brother Shabazz that how black and brown people are treated in this country is really our most pressing social issue, it is what we should be acting on, thinking about, engaging in every day. And that’s why it’s really disappointing to have to stop that work at this point and have this discussion about whether anti-Semitism is wrong,” Raley said.

Shabazz disagrees. He sees the discussion as being about Black-Jewish relations and therefore as intimately tied to the wider discussion of continued oppression of Black people in America and the world.

“My problem, though, is that from what I’ve been hearing, is that the experiences, the history, the politics of Jewish people matter more than the history, experiences, politics of black people, of African-Americans specifically, and I think that’s deeply problematic,” Shabazz said.”

With regard to Professor Raley’s comments, although I agree this this conversation effectively pauses the work that is being done for the betterment of students of color on the Knox campus, any source of oppression must be addressed. Rather than being viewed as a “distraction,” I think that this discourse should be treated as an opportunity to confront discrimination, writ large, in the Knox community.

I realize that this sentiment may seem to manifest Dr. Shabazz’s concern, quoted above, that Jewish history remains favored, whereas African-American history remains silenced. This is not what I am suggesting. Instead, I would advocate for an emphasis on the ideals of ending discrimination and oppression for all marginalized groups. I realize this may sound naive, but I firmly believe that a unity of minds is the only way to achieve strength in action. It concerns me that Dr. Shabazz would jeopardize this unity by minimizing another’s distress resulting from racial discrimination.

I hope that there is more to this story than this article presents, and I hope that in the coming days we are given more contextualizing information.


Apr 22, 2018

Shabazz said some real shit whether you like it or not. I don’t blame him for being frustrated.

There isn’t a country in the world where it’s illegal to discredit the slavery of African peoples but there’s numerous countries where it’s illegal to discredit the Holocaust.

All of you white kids want to be marginalized so bad that you turn on a great man on a whim. I bet anything all of you Hillel Club members grew up more privileged than Shabazz but you still want to play the victim. Also I know for a fact that all of you have said worse shit behind close doors. Don’t act like you’re so righteous.

I’m not white so I don’t have white guilt so I say shit how it is.


    Apr 22, 2018

    Growing up and being beaten everyday for being Jewish is not a privileged upbringing. Genetics show a clear middle eastern connection for many Jews. I’m from Morocco, but I’m white? Really? Please don’t generalize, Jews are a diverse group


    Apr 22, 2018

    Black and brown Jews exist in the millions. How about stop erasing them just because you’re clearly ignorant of their existence or think they are inconvenient for your point?

    You can’t defeat white supremacy by recycling white supremacist tropes, which is exactly what Shabazz is doing. Saying that Jews are not a marginalized group is pure gaslighting and an attempt to erase history. You would undoubtedly be angry if someone tried to deny your history, but yet that is exactly what you’re doing to other people.


Apr 23, 2018

Great coverage TKS. Good example of how people feel safer saying things online than they would in person. Get everyone together in the Common Room for a talk and see how that goes?


May 15, 2018

Kwame Zulu Shabazz a Knox Professor of “Africana” Studies is bringing great glory to Knox College these days as an unabashed and vicious anti semite (or racist and bigot if you prefer). He is being featured as such in many a news article in papers and periodicals across the land from the Knox Student which broke the story to The Algemeiner’s current issue; The Tablet and other periodicals.

All are reporting on and marveling at the valiant Kwame Zulu Shabazz and his so far successful fight with Knox College’s feckless administration to maintain employment at the once prestigious Liberal Arts College which appears now to be so intimidated by black people it will tolerate just about anything including the proper kind of racism.
In addition to Shabazz we also have Visiting Knox Instructor of Art Kahlil Irving jumping to the defense of Shabazz’s anti semitic behavior with this:

“Jews are (sic) Israelis are annihilating entire peoples. That’s true. The isolation and killing in Gaza in the West Bank, that is an annihilation of Arab Christians and Arab Muslims. And if you can’t understand that, you have an implicit bias,” Irving said. “How Jews went from Holocaust victims to brutal occupiers in just a few generations, if that ain’t (sic) fucking (sic) the most true statement about Israel, then I don’t know what is.” Thanks and a hat tip to The Knox Student

Ain’t and the F Bomb from a Knox Faculty member? RREEAALLYY?

Who hired these bums and why are they still drawing a paycheck or is Knox a place where the right kind of race card plays very well?
Once upon a time around 1975 or so Knox College had academic and behavioral standards which contributed to a widely held belief that a graduate of Knox College had really accomplished something even if graduating last in his class.

Back then we did not tolerate things that were intolerable.


May 16, 2018

So, is Kwame Zulu Shabazz still a Knox Professor of Africana Studies? Is he still bringing great glory and prestige to the College these days?

Based on his tweets and his weak defense of them, he appears to be an unabashed and vicious anti semite (or racist and bigot if you prefer). At any rate he is being featured in many a news article in papers and periodicals across the land giving many alums yet one more reason to be totally embarrassed by our dear old alma mater and it’s feckless efforts to confront racism, bigotry and all the rest when the accused are black..

All are reporting on and marveling at the valiant Kwame Zulu Shabazz and his so far successful fight with Knox College’s bumbling administration to maintain employment at the once prestigious Liberal Arts College which appears now to be so intimidated by black people it will tolerate just about anything including the proper kind of racism.

In addition to Shabazz we also have Visiting Knox Instructor of Art Kahlil Irving jumping to the defense of Shabazz’s anti semitic behavior with this:
“Jews are (sic) Israelis are annihilating entire peoples. That’s true. The isolation and killing in Gaza in the West Bank, that is an annihilation of Arab Christians and Arab Muslims. And if you can’t understand that, you have an implicit bias,” Irving said. “How Jews went from Holocaust victims to brutal occupiers in just a few generations, if that ain’t (sic) fucking (sic) the most true statement about Israel, then I don’t know what is.” Thanks and a hat tip to The Knox Student

Ain’t and the F Bomb from a Knox Faculty member? RREEAALLYY?

Who hired these people and why are they still drawing a paycheck or is Knox a place where the right kind of race card plays very well?

Once upon a time around 1975 or so Knox College had academic and behavioral standards which contributed to a widely held belief that a graduate of Knox College had really accomplished something even if graduating last in his class.

Back then we did not tolerate things that were intolerable.


Aug 05, 2018

Newsflash: You can be Black and Jewish at the same time. It’s not a competition for who suffers the most. Claiming all Jews are white people is blatantly untrue and erases the existence of millions.

Is Prof. Shabazz a fan of Louis Farrakhan?



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